Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness

Sunlight shines through rainclouds in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.

The "Frank" is the largest forested wilderness in the lower 48, second in size only to Death Valley wilderness. It's an area of rugged mountains, deep canyons, and wild rivers. In fact, most folks access this 2,366,757 acre wilderness in rafts, on either the main Salmon River or the Middle Fork of the Salmon. The Main Salmon runs west near the northern boundary and is one of the earth's deepest canyons. The fast-moving waters earned it the nickname "River of No Return."

The Middle Fork of the Salmon begins near the southern boundary and runs north for about 104 miles before joining the Main. Each year about 10,000 people float the Middle Fork, taking about 6 or 7 days to make the journey.

Folks can also access this wilderness via jet boat and airplane, since both modes of transportation were 'grandfathered' into the 1980 wilderness bill.

Originally called the River of No Return Wilderness in 1980 when first designated as wilderness, Congress changed the name four years later to the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, in honor of Idaho Senator Frank Church, who shepherded the bill on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Some of the nearby towns are Riggins, Salmon, and Stanley, Idaho.